More Indians enter Fiji’s prison system

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The growth rate of Indians entering the prison system over the past three years exceeds the growth rate of Fijians, a study by the Australia and Fiji Law Justice Sector Program has revealed.

And the majority of prisoners in jail today are between the ages of 20-25 years, according to the report by Rehabilitation Adviser David Evans.

It calculated that in 2002 the average prison population was 354 but this figure later sky-rocketed to 501.

It said the significant rise in sentenced prisoners could be owed to increased police efficiency in detection and prosecution, to changes in sentencing practices or demographic changes.

“Whatever the reason, the increase in numbers has placed considerable pressure on a system that already had difficulty coping with inadequate resources,” the report said.

“Being at the end of the criminal justice process chain, prisons have little control over the numbers of prisoners it has had to deal with. Fiji Prisons Service is continually being stretched to the limits.”

A large number of people have been held in remand for short periods but this has a considerable bearing on the workload of the prison authorities, the report said. For this year alone, 1358 prisoners were held in remand, the report said.

It said there were serious shortcomings in prisoner rehabilitation and an over representation of young prisoners serving very short sentences for minor cases.

And together with the lack of programs to address offending behaviour, these factors contributed to prisoners overcrowding in antiquated unsuitable prison accommodation, the report said.

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